And so that was Christmas….

It’s that strange lull time between Christmas and New Year when some people are already back to work but others are still off, TV and radio scheduling is not back to normal and you hit a point where despite the house being filled with all sorts of delicious special food you struggle to pull together an actual meal that doesn’t make you feel like you are at a wedding reception buffet – which is no bad thing, but starts to wear thin after 8 such meals in a row for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Of course here in this life we don’t really have jobs to be getting back to, or certainly not ones we have taken time off from. Indeed Ady has been doing more paid, off-the-croft work than normal the last week or so as he has been feeding the animals and doing the daily checks on buildings and livestock for the nature reserve as the regular staff have been off the island celebrating Christmas with their families. I’ve gone with him for the ride and the photo opportunities. It’s lovely to get out into the island and feel the wilderness and rugged nature of Rum once you are outside of the main settlement of Kinloch village.

We had very different weather conditions on every trip across the island from bright sunshine to hardly-see-your-hand-infront-of-your-face fog.

Our Christmas dinner this year was Rum venison, as always it’s lovely to have proper local food to celebrate and you can’t get much more local, or indeed seasonal than red deer from our own island. We are no longer in small overexcited children territory of Christmas past, infact Ady and I were up well before the teens this year and the piles of presents under the tree were considerably smaller than ever before. True to type though Ady’s gifts were mainly gadget based, Davies’ were game, art and tech related, Scarlett’s were largely art and craft with some tech in there too and mine were consumable – I am very keen to not amass more ‘stuff’ so would always rather have something I can eat, drink or otherwise use up, or something I can actually use regularly. For the last few years I have been collecting individual pieces of pottery from a potter down in the south of England who makes one off items. I started with a large mug from her and then commissioned matching tumbler, shot glass, bowl and this year a plate. They all match, as much as individually made pieces can and I love the fact that this was made specifically for me, to my own personal size, design and colour specifications. Davies and Scarlett are also heading towards the same reasoning of less stuff, more memories and had asked for tickets to a podcast live show as gifts too, thus delaying part of their Christmas until next month.

I also got a pyrography tool so expect some new craft learning pictures and ideas to be popping up soon.

Everyone was really pleased with what they were given and while the teens tried out some of their new games and Ady busied himself getting Christmas lunch cooking I managed to take my Christmas jumper up my hill for an hour all to myself, which was very lovely too.

Ady met me on the way down and we popped along to the village for a festive drink with some of the islanders who were enjoying a communal meal together in the village hall. Then back to the croft for some more Christmas jumper pictures with Davies and Scarlett.

You may well notice Scarlett looking slightly dazed – she had come down with a cold on Christmas Eve, which over the course of Christmas Day and Boxing Day the rest of us have also come down with so we are currently all in full on convalescence hibernation mode. We had planned a couple of nights visiting local friends on the mainland which we were all really looking forward to but had to make the difficult call to cancel as none of us were up to it, neither did we want to bring them our festive germs either.

So instead, like in years gone by, and like so many people everywhere we have been watching festive TV on iplayer, ploughing through the festive food and drink and trying to keep up with just what day it is!

Merry Christmas – we hope all our readers have enjoyed a peaceful and celebratory holiday.

Meanwhile on the mainland

It’s been a busy few weeks. We had a visit from a friend, much beloved by all here on Rum and known on island as ‘Prosecco Mairi’. A flying visit but packed with plenty of fun, love and laughter, exchanging of gossip, gifts and news. We packed in a walk up my hill, a night of socialising to celebrate one of the islander’s birthdays along with a ping pong tournament in the village hall, some star gazing and much setting the world to rights.

There was a communal Ladies Lunch for Rum’s fine women complete with a bring and share meal.

I have been busy making clocks to order – it started with one clock which quickly became two clocks and then suddenly became three clocks. I am confident the BBC won’t be after me for royalties or to chase up their licencing rights….

Ady’s done some fantastic path maintenance which means we can still walk up and down the croft in shoes rather than wellies – completely unheard of previously for this time of year.

We’ve had some spectacular sunrises and sunsets

I’ve been up my hill as many times as possible

We enjoyed a mad 48 hours on the mainland utterly jam packed to maximum efficiency. We managed medical appointments (routine, nothing scary) for both Ady and I including one for me which was very long overdue, Scarlett’s postponed birthday meal, some festive food and drink shopping and a rather inconvenient but beautiful nonetheless lengthier than usual due to disrupted ferry timetables meaning we were at sea for sunset boat trip.

We’ve watched many festive films, mulled lots of wine, eaten plenty of mince pies, made lots of gifts and are ready for the big day.

Christmas is pretty special but since living here on Rum we have also begun to truly celebrate winter solstice. And by celebrate I mean look forward to it, feel heartened by it’s arrival and the lengthening of the days and the bringing back the light that it marks and symbolises. In a life where every season brings it’s joys and challenges and we are as grateful for the winter gifts as the summer bounty we are all the same grateful for the promise of longer, brighter days ahead. We celebrated with sparklers, a small fire and hot chocolates under the full solstice moon.

Scarlett made a fab-yule-lous choclolate log cake.

For the first time we can remember here the weather is kind all over the Christmas period and although snow would be very nice we’ll take calm and still over almost any other weather on offer.

It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas might arrive at some point in the next few weeks

We love Christmas. Ady and I loved it before we had Davies and Scarlett, even though as retail managers in our early careers it meant a time of long working hours, lots of stress and finding yourself humming Christmas songs right through from October onwards. Ady worked in Garden Centres so was selling real Christmas trees, artificial Christmas trees, Christmas decorations and poinsettias while I had various retail jobs including working on the tills at B&Q as a teenager learning the barcodes of the two types of netted real trees off by heart, branch manager of Clinton Cards lurching from one ‘season’ to the other, putting away the ‘congratulations on your exam results’ cards and getting out the ‘Christmas wishes across the miles’ cards in the same week as people began thinking about sending cards to Australia months ahead of the big day, gradually extending the footage of cards each week until half the shop was given over to festive cards and cuddly toys with santa hats. I loved working on Christmas Eve and catching the blokes heading home after an early finish at work, a few drinks in the pub and a desperate realisation that the one job they had to contribute to a family Christmas was buying a card and gift for their wife and selling them overpriced cuddly toys and Forever Friends figurines! My final retail job was for Bhs, working as the womenswear, menswear and shoes & accessories manager. We gave over a large amount of floorspace to the ‘Christmas Shop’ so were selling glittery tops and sparkly dressed along with festive ales, novelty plastic reindeers that pooped jellybeans and musical cookie jars shaped like Santa that said ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ when you opened them.  December was a nightmare of staff rotas, early mornings to restock shelves, late nights covering late night shopping events, managing queues at the tills, avoiding or succumbing to and staggering through all the seasonal germs from all that contact with thousands of customers, work Christmas parties and getting home late on Christmas Eve after putting in the sale after the store was closed ready to be back at work early on Boxing Day to deal with the bargain hunters in their droves. It was frantic, busy, often stressful but in it’s own way magical and filled with traditions.

Fast forward to our early day of parenthood when Ady still worked in retail or retail support and a whole host of brand new traditions, now bound up in having a December birthday which we were determined not to have overshadowed by Christmas. Trips to see Santa, end of term for events like Rainbows, Scouts, Badgers, Home Education groups all having their own Christmas parties and our December tradition for many years of a get together with Home Educating friends for a Christmas Camp in a youth hostel coming together to celebrate an early Christmas with crafts, cooking, full Christmas dinner, decorations and a secret santa gift exchange. We carolled, we went to various nativity events and at least twice we had snow! The actual day was filled with family magic from crazy early starts waking with small children beyond excited at the piles of gifts under the tree and Christmas dinner shared with extended family.

Our Rum Christmasses have bought us new traditions and customs. Our annual Christmas cake making back in October, our trip out into the woodland early each December to select and fell a tree, gathering natural materials to make wreaths, decorating our tree with an ever increasing collection of hand made, home made or gifted ornaments including new ones collected or made each year, celebrating the solstice and really feeling that turning of the season as the light fades and then grows again. The school play, mulled wine and mince pies at the village hall and an island secret santa gift exchange. Christmas dinner planned around seasonal food we have reared or processed or grown ourselves. We choose 24 Christmas films to watch, one a day, as an advent film count down from December the first. As the years have passed and the children have grown some of the customs have passed to them – I still make the mincemeat each year but Scarlett is now the better pastry maker, we all take turns in stirring the Christmas cake but she will be the one designing and decorating it a few days before Christmas. We rarely send Christmas cards but over the years when we have done it will be one of Davies’ handdrawn designs gracing the front.

We have been making new decorations this year – Ady has cut some slices of wood and created candle holders, I have been foraging for holly, ivy, willow and hazel and making wreaths and reindeer – Scarlett and I made a giant one today. I’ve been crocheting items for a special order and making a few gifts and new decorations for our tree too. I’ve learned a few Christmassy songs on my ukulele and if the weather is kind and the ferry runs we have a couple of nights on the mainland next week to do some last minute shopping and stock up on some food and drink treats too. Now if it could just turn cold enough for snow over the following weekend in time for the big day that would be about perfect!

Happy Birthday Scarlett

I wrote this on social media today, to celebrate our lovely daughter’s birthday.

For Scarlett, my Scarlett.

Sixteen years of Scarlett. Sixteen years of being a mother to a daughter. Countless memories of you at every age.

Of that precious, precious moment of connection when all the chaos melted into the background as the midwives bustled around clearing up, Daddy started phoning people to tell them you were here and you and I lay, still and silent, looking into each others eyes saying our very first hello with you on the outside.

Of you meeting your brother Davies for the first time. Barely two hours old, small and soft and suddenly making my tiny two year old look like a giant as he sat next to you stroking your hand, your head before asking if he could open door 6 on his advent calendar now.

Of the times you went quiet and I would suddenly realise and dash into the room where you were to discover what it was you were up to this time. Clambering up furniture to get your dummy, emptying a bottle of baby shampoo onto your bedroom floor, drinking a bottle of rescue remedy, colouring yourself in with felt tips.

Of the battles we had when you were three – the screaming to not sit in your car seat, to not wear tights, to not wear a coat, to ‘go away Mummy’, to ‘not leave me Mummy’. I remember you dressed as a princess in a grubby golden dress, shoes long since left behind, tiara askew, chocolate around your face screaming at me in front of a garden party full of friends to ‘come here Mummy’ as you sat just out of reach but well within hearing range. ‘You’ll spoil’ her someone cautioned ‘you need to show her who is boss’. I Hope by coming to you I showed you that you are indeed the boss.

Of your adamance and firmness. Of the time you told me that if Davies was my son then you must be my moon. Not for you the label daughter.

Of your love of animals, all kinds. Of your encyclopedic knowledge of them and recall for facts about animals, your natural affinity with them. Of you hatching ducklings who absolutely believed you were their mother, of you and I sharing the wonder of assisting in the birth of piglets, of your tenderness with ill or ailing creatures, your command and confidence in handling them.

Of how you can take charge of situations, assessing what needs to be done and falling into whatever role is required – directing, encouraging, cheer leading, motivating or simply getting on and doing. You can step up, step back or step to the side and stand shoulder to shoulder.

Of your kindness, compassion and care. Of your thoughtfulness, understanding and empathy. Of your quiet consideration and capability. Of your spirit of adventure and fun, of your sense of humour, your creativity, your sense of justice.

Of your absolute unshakeable knowledge of who you are. You carry yourself with such confidence and belief and awareness. You never doubt your path or need to question how to be true to yourself. You show no artifice, no ‘for appearances’, you are you and much beloved for it.

I am forever grateful to have you in my life, to know you and love you  Happy 16th birthday my wonderful girl.

We’ve had a lovely day today, filled with Scarlett’s favourite things to eat and drink, cosy in the caravan with the log burner crackling out warmth, the Christmas tree giving out light and laughter and love filling the room. Messages from family and friends have arrived wishing Scarlett happy birthday and we have plans for a couple of days on the mainland just before Christmas for Scarlett to defer some celebrating too.